CAM Spring Exhibition and Great Rivers Biennial Opens
The Contemporary Art Museum’s spring exhibition, currently underway, encompasses the sixth edition of the Great Rivers Biennial, featuring the work of St. Louis-based artists Brandon Anschultz, Carlie Trosclair and Cayce Zavaglia. From Anschultz’s work—an exploration of plot and stage design as inspired by Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer”—to Trosclair’s “Exfoliation,” consisting of a constructed room with the wall’s metaphoric skin in various stages of peeling away, through Zavaglia’s impressive enlarged and reversed paintings of embroideries, the Great Rivers artists cover a good deal of artistic territory.
Include monumental sculpture postcards by Katharina Fritsch, multimedia paintings by Brenna Youngblood and new sound art by Van McElwee, Sarah Paulsen, and Cameron Fuller (part of the art sound series that once again graces your visit to the loo), and it’s the typical CAM exhibit: Full of surprises, variety and enough head-scratching moments to invigorate the brain.
Of the Great River Biennial winners, Cayce Zavaglia’s “Recto/Verso” is a visually enticing, rich collection of work that successfully blends the romantic world of portraiture and tapestry with an interwoven, complicated and chaotic modern existence. The artist begins with an embroidery done of friends, then flips it over revealing its back side, or verso—with its complicated patterns, loose ends, knots and seemingly random thread trajectories, which reveals a world of chaos in opposition to its calm and regal front.
Zavaglia paints these reversos very large, which then are displayed next to the embroidery they are based on. Visually striking and beautiful, the work also comments on the contrast between our real self, and the self we present for public consumption via Facebook or other social media—where every dinner is “the best ever,” and every weekend your friends go boating, paragliding, or to Cabo and don’t you wish you had their life—except of course they don’t have that life either. Their verso, like everyone’s, is as full of knots and loose ends as Zavaglia’s paintings.
Carlie Trosclair’s “Exfoliation” is an architectural installation that highlights contemporary ruins as dynamic ecosystems. The walls and covering that make up the exhibit are in various stages of disrepair, particularly their surfaces, which are peeled back or broken away to reveal the inner bones, often unseen. One wall features wallpaper that is peeling away, leaving only its design elements, still adhered to the wall like the good part of a memory, as the rest is worn away by time.
“Suddenly Last Summer,” Brandon Anschultz’ Great Rivers Biennial entry, loosely based on the Tennessee Williams work of the same name, uses a variety of materials to evoke a neglected New Orleans garden from the Williams play and film. Using foam, glass, wood and mirrors, Anschulz creates a bizarre garden—with assorted forms and objects displayed on multi-directional and tiered shelf stands—that is neither organic nor fertile. It is, however, meant to be walked through and considered. According to printed material, the garden functions as a metaphor for repressed desire and lost opportunity.
Also on exhibit, Katharina Fritsch’s “Postcards” features five enlarged images painted from actual postcards. While some of Fritche’s postcard work can be unsettling, these presented by CAM are whimsy writ large. A postcard of four baguettes becomes less about the baguettes than a study of what a tourist would judge as their comment on visiting Paris. The swim-suited hunk and Arc de Triomphe make sense, but baguettes? Why not?
Brenna Youngblood’s first Midwestern solo museum exhibition, “Loss Prevention,” uses built-up layers of paint to create ethereal atmospheres in her work, which contain an impressive subtleness of shading and color. Youngblood isolates objects—a light bulb, a fan blade—to offer us an intimate look into a lower socioeconomic status, where a bare bulb in a ceiling socket tells us everything we need to know about the world in which we are the voyeurs.
Rounding out the CAM spring exhibit, Audible Interruptions continues with Van McElwee, Sarah Paulsen and Cameron Fuller’s sound work. The series puts site-specific sound installations into areas of the museum normally not associated with art, such as the restrooms, elevators, or a hallway, removing distinctions between exhibition and common spaces. It’s a fun idea that has been successful, but the audio art is starting to sound similar to the work that came before.
The Great Rivers Biannial continues through Aug 10. For more information, visit the Contemporary Art Museum website.